The Fantasy Youth Ministry Team

The last Sunday afternoon of every August I sit in my living room with 11 other guys. We’re intensely focused as we type away on our laptops while looking through stacks of papers covered in handwritten notes. A planning retreat? No. A curriculum development meeting? Nope. An anointed brainstorming session? No way. It’s my annual fantasy football draft.

It sure would be nice if we could pick our youth ministry teams like we pick our fantasy football teams: looking at statistics and match-ups and choosing based on need. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way but if there were such a thing as a “fantasy youth ministry team draft”… here are five categories I would consider:

Love the Gospel – I don’t care how hip or influential a person seems to be. If it isn’t obvious they love the story of redemption and are centering their lives on the goodness of Jesus, then I don’t want them on my team. I’m not talking about perfect people. I’m talking about people who are entirely aware of their imperfections and modeling a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Love the Family – Youth ministry is not just about teenagers. Youth ministry is about partnering with and supporting the work of discipleship happening in the home. Youth workers that try to take the place of parents or try to make parents out to be the enemy would go undrafted by me. If parents are unsaved this may look different but it’s still a non-negotiable.

Love the Team – We’re better together. Sometimes talented individuals and natural leaders have a hard time believing that. I want people on my team who love that they’re a part of a team and are glad to have a role to play. I don’t need someone with a messiah complex or a lone ranger.

Love the Journey – We’re all in process and there’s never been a teenager who emerged from youth ministry a finished product. 15+ years after high school and I still have so much growing in grace to do. I would select youth workers who patiently trust in God’s progressive work of sanctification as opposed to trying to be the Holy Spirit in teenagers’ lives while forcing behavior change that is disconnected from heart transformation.

Love the Vision – This one starts with me as the leader. What’s the vision, why does it matter and how can you be involved? The vision should me memorable, engaging and regularly repeated. I would be using my draft picks on people who feel the tension of the problem that the vision exists to solve, buy into that vision and can share it with others in a compelling fashion.

We can’t draft our youth ministry team but we can intentionally recruit them and we must strategically develop them. Consider using these five categories as areas of development in your team and you just might be on your way to leading your very own fantasy youth ministry team.

Question: What would you add to this list? Share it here and let’s learn from one another.

Guest Post: David Hertweck serves the Assemblies of God in New York as the District Youth and Chi Alpha Director. Prior to that he served as a youth pastor for 11+ years at Trinity AG in Clay, NY. He’s married to Erin and has two daughters, Lilia and Caraline. He loves his girls, his extended family, good music, good food, his Weber grill, his Taylor guitar, Liverpool Football Club, the Yankees and the Gospel. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidHertweck.

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STUDENT LEADERSHIP (part 4): Get em in the game

Every time I’ve tried to formalize a student leadership “program” it turns out just “okay.” It’s never been great, it always gets some momentum when I start it and restart it, but it doesn’t deliver what I dreamt up on the whiteboard. I think it’s because I focused on a building a team of players more than getting the team members into the game. Today, I get much more excited about a non-program style of leadership development process. Now, I just want to get kids into the service funnel.

I’ve written this week about the mental progression that I go thru when thinking about developing leaders:

(1) I’ve got broaden my definition of what a leader is,

(2) paint a picture of who they could become,

(3) be specific with that picture, and

(4) give them serving opportunities.

Teenagers need to “taste” serving, they want to do something that is making a difference, and they’re more than capable of succeeding in the service opportunities we identify. A common hurdle keeping them from service is when we don’t take the time to identify service opportunities, or assign all of them to adults.

All during my youth ministry, I coached my own kids’ sports’ team until they got into high school. As a coach I quickly learned that a kid may have thought he was a shortstop, or a parent wanted their kid to be the QB, but the bottom line to figuring out what they were really good at (and enjoyed) was to give them playing time and the freedom to play. That principle transfers to developing student leaders. The kids in your ministry need playing time, they need to experiment, step across the line and move from sitting to serving. That’s it…just get them in the game.

Why I like the term “service funnel” is because of the visual image is helpful for people to grasp (wide opening at the top that narrows toward the bottom). At the top of service funnel are several “entry-level” service opportunities. As you move toward the bottom, the opportunities become more risky, time-consuming, and sacrificial. The challenge for youth workers is to identify the opportunities, make them known, and then start casting vision for teenagers to “get in the game” and start “playing” with service.

My 19 year-old son is serving in Kenya, Africa for 7 months working with children living on the street and sniffing glue. After his first semester he abandoned the safety of his college plan because he felt called to do something radical for God. That type of sacrifice, time, and risk is bottom of the funnel. He’s serving there because he tasted dozens of entry-level serving opportunities during junior high and high school. Serving was a value that he heard over and over. His volunteer small group leaders cast vision that he was a leader and challenged him to lead thru service that lead thru a microphone and stage time.

Some questions to think about:

  • Are you serious about developing student leaders?
  • Have you articulated service opportunities within your church (not just within your youth group)?
  • Do your teenagers know about them?
  • Are service and leadership synonymous within your church culture?
  • Are their “jobs” that adults are doing that teenagers could be doing?
  • Are adult leaders on the look-out for opportunities to cast a specific vision of how a teenager can serve?

Get em in the game and see what God does.

This is my first blog “series”…give me some feedback. Was it helpful? Too focused? Is variety better? Wearing my learner’s hat.